Monday, August 26, 2013

Chasing That Elusive Grail

NHL players supposedly live and breathe the game but do they understand some basic truths about the game at all? Given evidence right in front of them, are they delusional when changing teams in an effort to win a Stanley Cup?

Let's start with some basic information that should be staring all of them in the face.

Norris Trophy Type D-men Get You Cups

This cannot be overemphasized as only one team since the '94 lockout has won a Cup without that elite level guy on the blueline be it a top scoring guy or a shutdown monster. The Carolina Hurricanes with a decent defensive corps of Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican, Aaron Ward, Niclas Wallin, Mike Commodore, Glen Wesley and Oleg Tverdovsky won the 2006 Cup. Kaberle led the d-men in scoring with13 points in 25 playoff games. Decent numbers but I doubt Paul Coffey was shaking in his boots about his single playoff record total of 37 points being in jeopardy.

Just have a look at this very good to elite group of top scorers and scary intimidators
Devils--the Scotts (Niedermayer and Stevens)
Avs--Sandis Ozolinsh, Adam Foote, Rob Blake
Red Wings--Nicklas Lidstrom, Larry Murphy, Nicklas Kronwall
Stars--Sergei Zubov, Derian Hatcher
Lightning--Dan Boyle
Ducks--Chris Pronger...and Scott Niedermayer
Penguins--Sergei Gonchar
Blackhawks--Duncan Keith
Bruins--Zdeno Chara
Kings--Drew Doughty

So, did no one inform Daniel Alfredsson that Nicklas Lidstrom has retired?
Did he honestly think because the Red Wings pushed the eventual Cup champ Blackhawks to an overtime in Game 7 that means the Wings are close to a Cup?
Let me remind Alfie of his Sens' 2003 Game 7 loss to the Devils who took the Cup that season. The following season the Sens lost in seven to their old nemesis, the Leafs. Game over.

The '13 Wings pushing the Hawks to seven is no different than the Habs, Lightning and Cancuks all going seven with the '11 Bruins. Have any of those three teams won a Cup since then? Will any of them?

Almost ALL Cup champs get pushed to seven games somewhere along their Cup run. This has been happening pretty much since the '70s.

Now that Alfie has spoken about what when on during his attempts to get a new contract with the Sens, as well as the Sens thinking he'd be retired two seasons ago but they extended him an extra year last season . . . yeah, it's a mess. Anyway, as much as Alfie will be comfortable with the Swedish contingent (Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyqvist, Mikael Samuelsson, Joakim Andersson and even backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson--yes, The Monster himself!) the Red Wings still need a Lidstrom or at the very least a Brian Rafalski or Larry Murphy back behind the blueline.

All I can say, Erik Karlsson is in Ottawa and Craig Anderson is a pretty good goalie. If Alfie wanted to increase his Cup chances, he may as well have stayed put.

Losing Finalists Don't Take The Next Step 

Well, you say, the Penguins made it back in 2009. The Oilers did it too in 1984.
Sure they did but these two teams also had Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. So unless you have a couple of superstar forwards, how likely is it that the Boston Bruins are headed back and will win the 2014 Cup?

So, Jarome Iginla, what were you thinking? You were on the right team. You moved to the Penguins, played well even if on your off-wing, in the playoffs. Did you think the Pens getting embarrassed by the B's in four straight was a sign Pittsburgh was done?

Obviously, the B's getting back to the Final in 2013 after winning it in 2011 prove they are no fluke. They also have no superstar scorer (Nathan Horton who left for Columbus does not count) so chances of them pulling an '09 Pens move are slight despite the presence of Chara back behind the blueline.

Look, Jarome, the teams that win a Cup often fail miserably the previous season. That failure most likely is a motivating factor in the Cup-winning run. Just look at the playoff runs the season previous to the last four team's Cup wins.

2012 Blackhawks
Lost in the first round to the Coyotes. Well, they actually lost to Phoenix goalie Mike Smith. Five games went to OT. The Hawks outshot the Yotes by a margin of 241-159 in that six-game series.

2011 Kings
Lost in the first round to the Sharks. Three OT games all won by San Jose in the six-game set really did in LA.

2010 Bruins
Managed to become only the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a series and lose. The Flyers not only won four straight to finish off the series but were down 3-0 in Game 7 after just over 14 minutes from the start of the game and still came back to win 4-3. Needless to say Tim Thomas won the #1 goalie slot back after Tuukka Rask took it from him in 2009/10.

2009 Blackhawks
So close but the young Hawks lost in the third round to the Red Wings in five. Three games went to OT but the Hawks also got blasted 6-1 at home in Game 4.

So where should Iginla have gone if he truly believed the Pens had no shot at the 2014 Cup?

The choices really should have come down to the Capitals, Wild or Blues. All those teams had their hopes crushed in the 2013 playoffs. All four teams have some or all of the component parts Cup winning teams usually must have.

The Caps have Alexander Ovechkin, of course (an all-star on both wings!). Now Mike Green is most likely going to be the key. If he can return to being a top scoring defenceman, the Caps are in with a chance.

The Wild have the top D-man in Ryan Suter who proved in this past playoffs he is truly a stud. Sure they could use more scoring overall but having that Norris Trophy level defenceman is more important as THE building block to a Cup.

The Blues have a terrific defense corps in Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester and Barret Jackman among others. The big question is: What is going on with Alex Pietrangelo's contract? This guy is a Norris trophy winner in waiting. He'll be 24 and going into just his four full NHL season. Throw in some real depth in net with Jaroslav Halak. Brian Elliot and Jake Allen, and St Loo is a strong choice.

Even so, did Iginla not trust Kris Letang? That really is all the Pens need as the fuss about their netminding was unwarranted. Tomas Vokoun, who has been an excellent goalie buried in Nashville and Florida for much of his career, proved he can play with the big boys. Marc-Andre Fleury--who knows, but you only need ONE goalie .